The National Marts Committee of the Irish Co-operative Organisation Society (ICOS) has formally set out its stall on the proposed compensation package for beef farmers.

A statement from ICOS has explained that it wants the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed, to ensure that the scheme is implemented equitably to include provision for farmers who traded animals through livestock marts.

Continuing, the statement noted that nationally, all co-operative marts are “collectively and cohesively agreed” that the following policy should reasonably be adopted by the minister for allocation of the €100 million beef compensation fund.

The five key points are as follows:

  • Beef processor owned feedlots should be excluded from any compensation;
  • The maximum compensation allowed is limited to 500-head of cattle over the reference period (October to April) or any extended period agreed by the Department of Agriculture and the EU Commission;
  • To protect farmers who traded through the marts, ICOS is proposing a graduated system of compensation extending over a period of 10-weeks pre-slaughter;
  • All conditionality on a potential suckler herd reduction is completely rejected by ICOS marts;
  • The national suckler herd must also receive funding from this package to stabilise the sector. It provides an invaluable source of income and enterprise for rural Ireland. Any potential funds must be ‘per-calf’ produced from the entire national suckler herd.

Commenting on the five principles, Ray Doyle, livestock and environmental services executive of ICOS, said: “While the package is being provided through an implementing regulation from DG AGRI; it is up to the Department of Agriculture to decide how it is distributed. Our position represents a logical case.

“We are therefore asking Minister Creed to carefully take into account the nationally held view of all of our co-operative marts and of their farming members and to implement all our recommendations to protect the farmers who have been affected most.

Undoubtedly, beef finishers have had a disastrous 2018 and 2019 but so too did sellers of weanlings, forward stores and cull cows.

“It will not be acceptable that this compensation could be directed to a handful of factory agents if this scheme amounts to slaughter-only assistance.

“With the animal identification and movement system, it will be possible to ascertain the ownership and trading history of animals before they have been presented for slaughter.

“While the funds are finite, their distribution must be fair to all producers in the beef chain.”

10-week pre-slaughter suggestion

According to ICOS, a condition of the payout should be that if any animal was slaughtered within two weeks of purchase in a mart, then 100% of any compensation should be paid to the selling farmer.

After this period any funds should be graduated in weekly installments to benefit both the seller and the buyer of animals traded in the marts.

This will translate into a 12.5% increase for farmers who purchase animals in the mart (up to the maximum level of 10 weeks plus) when all potential compensation is received by the purchasing farmers.

The compensation package is based on an analysis proving market disturbance. The analysis takes account of data gathered by the Department of Agriculture on three factors in the period between October 2018 – March 2019.

According to ICOS, the factors were: sterling depreciation; flat lining of producer prices despite a usual increase with a data comparison done with the last two years; and investment and market insecurity in the sector.